Two years ago,
we started developing the eyewear business model of the future.
Never in a million years would we have thought a pandemic and isolation would spring board our business into full-steam ahead.
Ironically, we were already building a business based on many of the new challenges and potential new normals we all currently face today.
In an effort to help distract you just a little,
we thought we’d share our story.
How’d we get here?
Who is Tajima Direct?
What does Tajima Direct do?
6 Minute Read
Twenty years ago, just after I was born, my dad Steve had an idea. He was a key leader at Oakley, an accomplished sailor and water sports enthusiast, and he desired a better polarized lens technology than the industry and brands were offering. It was this vision that evolved into the invention of the most advanced polarized lens technology in the world. Made in Japan with the finest polarized lens maker in the industry. Together, they created new materials, better technologies, and improved polarized fabrication processes.
It was this innovation that birthed his new sunglass brand, Kaenon (named after me Jacob Kannon). After selling Kaenon four years ago, Steve again collaborated with his lens partner to establish Tajima Lenses by Talex.Their goal was to continue to improve and evolve their lens technologies and service great brands around the world with the finest polarized lenses.
I grew up in a “sunglass household.” I always wore and had the best eye protection – a priority with all the time spent in the sun.
Two summer’s ago, after just finishing up my sophomore year at Stanford, my dad and I were making the trek home south when I had an idea.
“Dad, why don’t you sell your lenses directly to the consumer? To have the best polarized lenses for whatever frame best fits their lifestyle.”
He responded, “I’d like to, but it must be brought to market differently…through technology, new methods and young people.”
We brought the idea to Talex…they loved the concept and encouraged us to start it with their support. The name Tajima is the prefecture in Osaka, Japan where Talex began over 80 years ago. Tajima was the birthplace and center of the optics industry in Japan. I developed the initial business outline that summer. With support and partnership from Talex and my dad, I went back to Stanford for my junior year to incubate and build Tajima Direct. We haven’t looked back since!
Our goal is to bring the very best polarized lens technology in the world to the people – anyone, anywhere – via digital technology.
Our lenses. Your frames. Sent directly back to you™.
Open 24/7, we offer simple streamlined ordering process with only a few taps on your preferred device – regardless of brand, frame style, or location. The most advanced polarized lenses for your favorite frame at a fair price and at a fraction of the cost for a new pair of quality polarized sunglasses.
The resources and inspiration at Stanford created an ideal incubator for Tajima Direct over the past 2 years. Last summer was spent working with my dad to build the business…logistics, supply chain, website design, and time in our lab. Of course, I also made time to race boats with my teammates, kite, and surf. It was nearing the end of this summer while competing at a World Championship in Russia that my Stanford teammate Wiley Rogers joined our Tajima team as well.
By August 2019, our digital lens processing lab was up and running, beta tests were completed with satisfied and impressed test cases, the website was functional, and I had the encouragement from my Stanford professors. We officially flipped the switch and launched Tajima-Direct.com 8.27.19. 100% digitally native, seamless e-commerce ordering process, and a state-of-the-art digital lens process customizing our polarized lens technology into your frames in our lab in California.
We were officially in business and I was heading back to Stanford to complete my senior year. I was two quarters away from completing my degree, a dedicated member of our varsity sailing team who would be ranked #1 in the country ready to win a national championship or two, and a new business owner. With challenges, opportunity, excitement and a lot of hard work ahead, I was stoked!
We’ve purposely stayed low key the past year, in an effort to allow the business to grow organically, perfect our systems, improve our programs, ensure our early-adopter customers were happy and evolve our model based on feedback our customers and professors provided. Iterate, iterate, iterate!
In February 2020, we were six months into official business and we couldn’t be happier with where we were, and where I was. I was in New Zealand sailing the Youth Match Racing Worlds, almost done with my college academic career with a quarter to spare. In the spring, I planned to focus on my final collegiate sailing season and building Tajima Direct. With College Sailing Nationals in May, graduation in June, and nothing but full focus on Tajima Direct – I was locked in. All was going according to plan, including the sailing. Then…the music stopped two weeks ago.
I completed my last winter quarter assignments just before Stanford shut down campus and sent everyone home for the remainder of the year. The sailing season, like every sport, was cancelled outright. I went from feeling like I was on top of the world to having the rug yanked out from under me. By the time I realized what hit me, my world was turned upside down. I left campus to go snowboarding – get away. I got one day in, they closed the mountain. Reality just hit. The world fell into a crisis.
So here we are. School is over. Graduation is cancelled. The spring sailing season swiped from me and my teammates. No ceremony, no paper, no championships. I can’t even celebrate with my friends or say goodbye to my classmates, teammates, and professors. Four great, incredible years at Stanford University – and it’s over.
So what am I doing?
Ok, I was down for a couple days…and yes, the chaos and fear of the pandemic was all around me. I went home. To Tajima Direct HQ. Jumped in the ocean. Kited for 2 hours and put the past behind me. As I washed away the disappointment, I quickly realized Tajima Direct was invented to operate optimally for the new world we’re now living in. I decided to close the gap and move my time frame ahead by four months. I am now full focus on Tajima Direct (as well as my health and wellness during this crisis). And I can’t be more stoked. Onwards and Upwards as my kiwi mates say!
We set up Tajima Direct to run out of our home, and to be managed from anywhere in real time. Technology first – an efficient business model. I’ve had Zoom video sessions with my incredible Stanford professors (you’re absolute studs: Perry, Jeremy, and Jack – thank you!!). Our lens processing lab is fully functional while taking all the necessary and prescribed health precautions for our team. And like you, we’re taking our own health and wellness seriously. But we always have…we’re outdoors people who do what we preach and make products that improve our lifestyle and that of our friends.
In other words, it’s game on!
There is no better time to install the most advanced polarized lens technology in the world in your favorite sunglass frames – prescription too! If you like what we’re doing, like our story, or have enjoyed our products and service already, we’d love for you to spread the word, follow us on social media, and share this email with your friends and network.
If you made it this far – thank you! I hope you get outside, seek sunshine, and breathe in the fresh air. Now’s the time to upgrade your lens technology to enjoy the outdoors as warm weather is just around the corner! The other side is near. We’re throwing it in forward gear with only slight glances in the rear view mirror to reflect on 4 incredible years of great people and awesome experiences – thank you Stanford, you’ve set me up for the future!
Be safe, be well, and remember, it’ll be alright!
Co-Founder and President